featuring Olivia Newton-John
Electric Light Orchestra

1980: MCA MCAD-11857

  1. Magic
  2. Suddenly
  3. Dancin’
  4. Suspended in Time
  5. Whenever You’re Away From Me
  6. I’m Alive
  7. The Fall
  8. Don’t Walk Away
  9. All Over the World
  10. Xanadu

I know what you’re thinking: that I should be horsewhipped for having this CD, or at least mortally ashamed of myself. And to a degree I am. But dammit, even with its stupid title “Dancin’” may be an unlikely pairing of Olivia Newton-John and The Tubes but is a lot of fun…in the movie itself especially, but also just as an audio track. Also, though he sounds a little winded, Gene Kelly singing that duet with Olivia Newton-John is really nice…and in the film it’s very, very touching (as its poignantly inconclusive ending suggests on the soundtrack album) as well as thrilling (ONJ & Kelly do NOT suck as a dance pair, and the way their characters’ histories are brought back together for this song in the film is awfully beautiful in its way).

Personally I’ve never been an ELO fan, so much of this CD is skippable. Especially “The Fall” and “All Over the World.” Bleagh. But then there’s “I’m Alive,” which is a barely tolerable song until you’ve seen it set to the visuals of that opening sequence, and then it’s magical and downright uplifting, somehow. In fact when I play “I’m Alive” I only enjoy it if I’m replaying that scene in my mind, and when I’m actually watching the film I do rejoice in that quirkily impressive fusion of music, choreography, special effects, and mythological heritage, and I find myself wishing such a level of exuberant discipline-blurring tribute could be done more often in the modern Art world without it having to be the cynical and angry stuff that usually dominates the scene.

Also, I must confess that I find “Magic” to be a gorgeous recording from beginning to end, if a touch syrupy. The unusual chordings and exotic dark warmth of its base sound do move something in me; the way the song’s presented in the film enhances the “dark” part of that, as ONJ’s character (Terpsichore, in contemporary dress) is rollerskating/dancing in and out of darkness in an abandoned building to entice and intrigue one of the main mortal characters to recognize the magic of the place she’s led him to. Even without that scenario, I think this recording (and the song itself, independent of the swoopy lushness of the studio production) works and serves as a somewhat profoundly discreet encouragement for someone in need of a word of support.